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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

April 22, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Round-up: High court upholds affirmative-action ban, grieving borrowers told to pay up

Supreme Court upholds affirmative-action ban (AP): The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s affirmative-action ban in a 5-2 decision today. The ruling bolsters a similar voter-approved ban in Washington that prohibits public colleges and universities from using race as a factor in admissions decisions.

Borrowers ordered to repay student loans in full when co-signers die (AP): The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it is getting more complaints from borrowers who have been unexpectedly ordered to repay their student loans in full following the death of a parent or grandparent who served as a co-signer. Many private loan companies include mention of that possibility in their contracts; federal student loans are not affected.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

April 22, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Guest: Let’s call a truce on teacher evaluations


Todd Hausman

Common sense is hardly commonplace in education policy today. Alliances are formed in Olympia, yet nobody is playing to let anyone else win. As a result of this mutual distrust, no improvements were made to our evaluation system during the recent legislative session.

Teacher evaluations have really become the crisis du jour in public education. Washington is at risk of losing its waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements and thus its control over approximately $40 million for low-income students. However, the debate in Olympia has largely been about preserving the quantity of federal funds, not the quality and strength of our teacher-evaluation system. So, while legislators were busy quarreling over whether to make student growth on statewide tests part of evaluations, they missed other opportunities to make actual improvements.

Done well, teaching is a highly complex art, and an evaluation of that art should not be simplistic. Evaluations should also be reliable enough to inspire trust among educators. The Washington State Teacher/Principal Evaluation Pilot (TPEP), first introduced in 2010, was definitely a step in the right direction. Teachers and principals are more focused on what students are learning than ever before, and they are looking at evidence of student growth. Yet, teacher evaluations haven’t exactly achieved a state of nirvana. In fact, there are several concrete ways in which they could still be improved.

With TPEP, a single observer still largely determines teacher evaluations. Usually, this is a school administrator. Even if that person is a dynamic instructional leader, and some are not, evaluation based on a single observer is bad science all the way around. So we still have a system that is devoid of checks and balances. That’s why we should consider multiple measures of a teacher’s effectiveness, such as student perception surveys and peer reviews, to increase reliability and fairness.


0 Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: No Child Left Behind, teacher evaluations, Todd Hausman

April 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

We’re a well-educated state — but why?

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Illustration by Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

A new national report by the Lumina Foundation shows Washington’s college-attainment rate is better than the national average.

But because there’s not enough state-wide detail, it’s hard to know if this report merely shows that Washington businesses have been very successful at recruiting well-educated people, who grew up elsewhere, to work here.

Nationally, Lumina reports that about 38.7 percent of adults ages 24-65 have a two- or four-year college degree. “Overall, the U.S. attainment rate has been increasing slowly but steadily; in 2008, it was 37.9 percent, and in 2009 it was 38.1 percent,” the report notes. The foundation’s goal is for 60 percent of working adults to have a two- or four-year degree, or other meaningful credential, by 2025.

Washington’s rate is significantly better than the national average; here, 43.3 percent of working adults have a two- or four-year degree, and in King County, the number is 56 percent.


0 Comments | Topics: higher ed

April 21, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Round-up: State officials ‘fully expect’ to lose federal waiver, N.Y. tests include product names

Officials ‘fully expect’ to lose No Child Left Behind waiver: The Washington OSPI is now discussing “when,” not “if” the U.S. Department of Education will revoke the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver. Without the waiver, districts would lose control of about $40 million in federal Title 1 funding. A decision is expected by the end of the month.

State needs to do more to help high-school counselors (editorial): The Seattle Times editorial board is calling for more guidance counselors who can help Washington students navigate the complex college-application process. The editorial follows a April 13 Education Lab story about how nonprofit programs are stepping up to help low-income students pursue higher education.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

April 21, 2014 at 5:38 AM

Teachable moment: Millionaire honors high-school history teacher in Tacoma

Most teachers work in relative obscurity, known to their students but largely invisible beyond the classroom. Last week, however, a history teacher in one of Tacoma’s high-poverty high schools attracted the attention of one of the wealthiest men on the planet.

Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, 34, felt little except annoyance when told to report to an all-school assembly at Lincoln High last week. Moments later, he was handed a $25,000 Milken Educator Award from disgraced financier-turned-philanthropist Michael Milken.

“We give Grammys to musicians, gold medals to Olympians, Nobels to scientists and others. But we give too little recognition to the people with society’s most important job – educators,” Milken said.

The rest of the week was a whirlwind for Gibbs-Bowling. Caught on a Friday afternoon while unloading his dishwasher, the history teacher reflected on his new platform and the ways that teaching has evolved.



April 18, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Round-up: WWU president criticized over language in push for diversity, school-stabbing case settled

WWU president over language in push for diversity (AP): Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard has drawn criticism for his comments that “ … if in decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we will have failed as a university.” Shepard says he is being intentionally provocative in order to emphasize the need for more diversity at Western.

Student who was stabbed receives $1.5 million: A King County jury has awarded $1.5 million to April Lutz, a former Snohomish High School student who was stabbed in a school bathroom in 2011 and nearly died. Her attacker, a fellow student, had been expelled for threatening to kill another student’s boyfriend but was later allowed to return to class.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

April 18, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Washington’s two-tiered system of higher education

Last Sunday’s story, “From Slipping Through the Cracks to the College Track,” noted that despite our brainy national image, Washington state has shockingly low college-going rates compared to the rest of the country. Only 60 percent of high school graduates here enroll in any four-year institution.

But for low-income kids, the rates are truly troubling.

Among the Class of 2012, only 18 percent enrolled in four-year colleges. Instead, many chose to attend no-barrier community colleges — even those who do well in school and score highly on standardized tests. Number-crunchers at the State of Washington Education Research & Data Center ran figures for The Times, and found that only 21 percent of low-income students who’d tested well in math went to four-year schools. But about one-third enrolled at community colleges (see graph below).


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: Community colleges, counselors, graduation rates

April 17, 2014 at 1:16 PM

Round-up: Veterans have trouble securing financial aid, Portland’s Common Core concerns

Veterans face challenges paying for higher education (NPR): A variety of programs exist to help veterans pay for college, but many face confusion figuring out which funds they qualify for and what paperwork they need to fill out. Many schools are opening veteran resource centers to help students navigate the financial-aid maze.

Portland school board members express concern over Common Core (The Oregonian): Board members who generally support the standards say they are worried about teacher preparedness and whether schools have the technology and materials to implement the tests.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

April 17, 2014 at 2:45 AM

Local parent empowerment effort wins $500,000 grant

A new parent empowerment program, aimed at immigrants, will get underway in White Center and Federal Way with help from a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Kellogg Foundation on Thursday announced that the Washington state proposal was one of 30 selected for its new grant program aimed at helping parents become leaders in early childhood education.

More than 1,130 groups applied for $13.7 million in grants.  The 83-year-old Kellogg Foundation said that is the most applications it has ever received for a single funding opportunity.

In Washington, the money will be used for a pilot project led by OneAmerica, an immigrant rights group, along with the Road Map Project and the Seattle Jobs Initiative.

Those groups will select 30 immigrant parents who will receive leadership training and support in reaching their career goals.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: OneAmerica, parent engagement, Road Map Project

April 16, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Quiz: Try out new SAT questions

The College Board has released a series of sample questions for the new SAT, set to roll out in 2016.

Among other changes, the new SAT will do away with obscure vocabulary words, and the essay requirement will become optional. Wrong answers will no longer be penalized.

Curious how the new test stacks up against your recollection of the SAT? Try out a few sample questions in our quiz:

Sample questions from the new SAT

On Wednesday, the College Board released sample questions for the redesigned SAT, set to roll out in 2016. Try your hand at some of the questions by taking our quiz.


0 Comments | More in News | Topics: SAT, standardized tests

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